By Hilary White

LANCASTER, October 14, 2008 ( – An adoption agency in Lancaster has decided that there is no need for recourse either to Catholic teaching or to the approval of its bishop to continue calling itself Catholic. Catholic Caring Services of Lancaster has told their bishop that they will go ahead with plans to include homosexual partners as prospective adoptive parents and at the same time continue to retain their “Catholic” character.

Jim Cullen, chief executive of Catholic Caring Services announced that the registered religious charity will consider homosexual partners and at the same time, “will remain a Catholic charity, operating the same services, with the same staff, same values and same ethos.”

“We are confident,” he said, “that this course of action is the only transparent and certain way to preserve our services for some of society’s most vulnerable children and adults.”

In a media release, the charity said it “always has been compliant with the law and is confident that compliance with the new equality legislation will not compromise its determination and moral responsibility to retain as paramount the best interests of the child.”

The agency went on to say that its decision had been reached after two years of  “consultation and dialogue,” “particularly” with Bishop O’Donohue.

The dialogue appears to have been one-sided, however. This summer, the trustees of Catholic Caring Services voted 6-1 to reject a suggestion by Bishop O’Donohue to have the agency reflect a completely Catholic orientation. The trustees approved an “open policy” under which it will accept homosexual and lesbian partnerships for consideration. The bishop responded that the agency, funded by the diocese, could not allow children to be adopted by homosexual partners and retain the name “Catholic.”

“I find it unthinkable, indeed heart-breaking, that Catholic Caring Services, so linked to the Catholic Church since its inception, would abandon its position and capitulate to recent same-sex adoption legislation,” wrote Bishop O’Donohue in a letter to trustees.

Bishop O’Donohue issued an ultimatum to the agency saying it must explore “all possible means” within the law to refuse homosexual adoptions or possibly be ousted from diocesan-owned properties and have its diocesan funding cut off.

In his letter, Bishop O’Donohue wrote, “Catholic Caring Services is a Catholic Charity and was established with Catholic money provided to it in the belief that Catholic Caring Services Trustees would use that money in accordance with Catholic teaching.” Bishop O’Donohue also warned the agency that they would come into conflict with the government’s Charity Commission if they tried unilaterally to redefine themselves as a secular agency.

The agency, however, would admit only that the SORs “would appear to some to challenge the Church’s views on marriage,” and asserted, “At no time has any judgement been made that was not confidently based upon the child’s best interests.”

Fr. Timothy Finigan, a theology professor at one of England’s major seminaries, said the Sexual Orientation Regulations are impossible to reconcile to a Catholic ethos. “It doesn’t just ‘appear to some’, it clearly does, flatly, contradict the teaching of the Church about marriage,” Fr. Finigan told 

Fr. Finigan refuted the agency’s claim that they could carry on being a Catholic institution while offering children to homosexual partners. “Clearly the whole of the charity’s ethos has been sacrificed if they intend to go along with this unjust legislation.”

“The church decides who is a Catholic charity and who isn’t. And Bishop O’Donohue has made it clear that they will not be a Catholic charity if they go along with the SORs,” he said.

Fr. Finigan’s opinion is supported by a document from the Vatican’s highest doctrinal office that said that, far from being in the child’s best interests, giving children to active homosexual persons for adoption constitutes an act of “violence” to the child.

A 2003 statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then under the leadership of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), said that homosexual adoptions “mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.”

Among those to whom the new legislation would “appear” to contradict Catholic teaching are the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, who attempted unsuccessfully to gain a legal exemption from the SORs for Catholic adoption agencies from the Labour government. But Tony Blair’s government offered only a “compromise” in which Catholic agencies had two years to comply or close.

Read related coverage:

Bishop: Catholic Adoption Agencies Could Be Evicted for Defying Church Teaching on Homosexual Adoption


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